The King of Kobassa
Tweaks to a traditional recipe, such as using fresh garlic and Himalayan salt, have perfected Halenda Meats’ flagship product. The article was written by the Toronto Star
The recipe for Halenda’s popular kobassa sausage goes back even further than the four decades since they opened their first plant in Oshawa.
“It originated 65 years ago with my father Michael Halenda, who immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine,” explains Richard Halenda, owner of Halenda’s Meats.
When Halenda’s opened its doors in 1979, the shop sold only a small number of products, but kobassa was the biggest seller. “Over time, the business has grown to two plants and seven stores that offer a full line of freshly cut meats. But we’ve always made our own sausage, and since day one kobassa has been the biggest seller by volume.”
Over the years, the kobassa recipe hasn’t changed much. “We did make some modifications as we got busier — we had to look at ways to make our kobassa quickly and more efficiently in the interest of time,” says Halenda.
Running at full capacity, Halenda opened a 47,000-square-foot facility in Etobicoke last September and shut down his smaller Mississauga plant. “We still have our plant in Oshawa, plus the new, large facility with all the latest in technology and equipment. This has increased our production ability dramatically.”
It also gave Halenda the opportunity to go back and take a closer look at his kobassa recipe and evaluate the process. “Some years back, we made the decision to use garlic buds in oil so we didn’t have to peel it. It was a necessary shortcut at the time, but I decided to go back to hand-peeling fresh garlic,” he says.
“We also used to marinate the sausage meat with the mix of spices and garlic, refrigerating it overnight, to really let the flavours blend with the meat. When we were short on space and time, we cut back the marinating time. But now we’re back to traditional timing.”
Halenda also experimented a while back with salt. “When we replaced table salt with an equal amount of Himalayan salt, there was a mellowing of the flavour, in my opinion. With these three changes — fresh garlic, overnight marinating and Himalayan salt — we believe we’ve taken an award-winning product to a whole new level.”
Their bestselling product can be enjoyed in several ways. “It’s delicious sliced and barbequed, or fried and mixed in omelettes,” says Halenda. “Warm kobassa on the centre of the plate with vegetables and starches is great. Or simply add it to any charcuterie platter — it will surely be the star. You can add kobassa to almost anything.”
Kobassa may be Halenda’s flagship product, but it’s only one of a large number of meat products it sells, including 60 kinds of sausage, from cooked and smoked sausages like kobassa to grilling sausages, as well as black forest ham, charcuterie and award-winning cured products. Halenda’s also carries a full line of pork, fresh chicken and high-quality beef.
“Making sausage is a science, with a cause and effect. You have to know what you’re doing and get it just right. But it’s also an art to make sausage that will satisfy the most discerning buyers,” says Halenda.
It’s a recipe for success: Halenda has won several awards at Ontario’s Finest Meat Competition, open to members of Meat and Poultry Ontario. At the most recent competition, Halenda received medals in 11 categories.
At the heart of it, Halenda’s is a family business. “Within the Halenda group, we have more than 70 employees, many who have been with us a long time — and they are our extended family.”